D.C. Sports Bog Live: Caps playoffs, Ovechkin, Redskins draft, more

Apr 20, 2010

D.C. sports bogger Dan Steinberg takes your questions about the Caps' playoffs, the Nats, the Redskins' draft prospects and all the area's breaking sports news.

So you spend how many years going to Cleveland, and now you don't get to go to Montreal? How is that fair?

This is a great question, and a nice way to start out. Hello peoples, incidentally. Quite a sports day for D.C. yesterday, with the Nats again peeking their heads above .500 and the Caps with the most convincing win of these NHL playoffs. Plus, Bruce Allen did the Redskins' pre-draft media availability, and not Vinny Cerrato.

As for the question, times have changed since those Cavs-Wizards series. And Montreal is a lot more expensive than Cleveland. And I disagree entirely with J. Noah's rip job on Cleveland.

Seriously, it's demeaning stuff, but when all the audio clips from every single player are on the Web by 11, and I can be as productive without worrying about arena wireless while sitting on my couch, there are only two reasons left to go to Montreal:

1) Photos of Youppi

2) Good beer

And I can't justify it for those alone.

Any truth to the rumor that the Nats are looking into providing light rail transportation from Philadelphia and along the Eastern corridor for the convenience of what seems to constitute such a substantial portion of their "fan base?"

Look, it's no secret that I think the Nats screwed up Opening Day. D.C. fans don't want to be demeaned like that, and certainly not when Philly's involved.

But all that said, at some point soon, you're allowed to start pointing the fingers at D.C. fans. Last night was a gorgeous evening, the Nats have been playing .500 ball, and plenty of good seats were availble. They drew, what, 11 k? Can't blame that on Philly bus groups. Sure, there's no tradition of competing, and there are plenty of problems, and no one ever said that two weeks of .500 baseball would light Washington on fire. But this team right now is competing, and you'd think that would merit more than 11,000 in the stands, right?

Yo Gabba Gabba!: Yay or nay?

Have never watched it. Our current top three (well, our daughter's top three) are Caillou, Dinosaur Train and SuperWhy!

Dan, I am not too upset about the booing of our national anthem last night. I was there on opening day for the Caps this season and people booed the Canadian national anthem. The person sitting next to me (who isn't a season ticket holder) said "I'll take my hat off for our national anthem, but not that stupid Canadian one."

My friend calls them "New Hockey Fans." If any of the Caps fans who yell out O or Red during our national anthem is upset at the Montreal fan base, they should quit yelling during ours. It's just as disrespectful.


Well, I'll agree with everything you say about booing at Verizon Center.

I guess I'll respectfully disagree about "O" and "Red." I find them both to be sort of silly, and the "O" thing to be especially ridiculous since it's copied from another franchise in another city, but I don't find them to be just as disrespectful as booing.

And again, I'm not fired up about this at all. Think it's worth a blog post, and that's about it. But booing an anthem is deliberately meant to express disapproval of another country, while shouting out one word is just meant to connote some sort of local pride. No matter what the offficial manual of anthem manners says, I think those are different. Still wish they'd stop shouting O, but I say it's better than booing.

Any ideas on the best way to figure out what the pitching rotation is and when we'd have the best chance of seeing Strasburg up in Harrisburg?

The Nats beat reporters have been great about providing updates. Hell, the Post has basically converted Dave Sheinin into a full-time Strasburg reporter. He's got to be near the front of the line for the book deal.

The next start is tomorrow morning, where he's scheduled to throw five innings or 85 pitches, I believe.

In case you were wondering about the Nats season ticket base, they drew 11,623 last night. So, the season ticket base is probably between 11,100 and 11,500.

Seriously, on a night like that, they couldn't get more than 123 walk-ups? Where are all the local Rockies fans?

McNabb asks the team to consider TO??? Really? Oh, wait, I forgot who the owner is. Makes perfect sense if they sign him.

I think you should feel free to unload all your cynicism if this actually happens. I think that a report indicating he asked someone (who?) to sign T.O. is not yet cause for unleashing the cynicism.

Such a signing would, however, lead to a whole 'nother rash of "2006 fantasy football champs" jokes.

I really hate the viewers texts that scroll across the bottom of CSN these days. Am I the only one who hates them, or does "K8 Luvs Ovie and Caps" or "Trade Fat Al to Lions for 1st Rounder" really make other viewers happy? Do they distract you as much as they distract me? Are you pro-viewer texts?

Well, I like all the folks at CSN very much. And they all seem to be excited by this development.

But no, it does nothing for me. Does nothing for me at Wizards games, either, when the texts flash across the big board. I can't fathom paying for the privilege of seeing "Varly!!!!!!" on TV. I mean, you can post that here all you want, and I'll publish it, and there are no standard rates at all. The rate is free, now and forever.

So yes, I agree with you, and I'm anti-viewer texts. Boooo.

It scares me. First I read that the Redskins new offensive coordinator is happy with and likes the current Redskins offensive line. Now I hear the Redskins are still considering possibly drafting Sam Bradford, and giving up what? Their first round choices form this year and next? Or, maybe all their draft choices this year? Tell me it ain't so. Let's hear it for smoke screens.

The Redskins have four picks. We've now heard they're considering offensive line, running back, wide receiver, quarterback, safety, linebacker, and who knows what else. Calm down. Again, I fully support vocal outrage at local teams, especially concerning the draft, but not before the draft. It's just wasting blood pressure spikes over nothing. Save them for the American Idol results shows.

Shanahan made it very clear this week that he does not like having just four draft picks, that he's always preferred to be receiving draft picks rather than giving them away. I don't think this will remain a local epidemic.

Jamison, Butler, Haywood, Stevenson, Etan Thomas, Roger Mason, that 10-day contract guy the Spurs signed... am I missing anyone? Rasheed Wallace, I suppose, if we want to go way back.

Gee. Give the man his due by referring to him by his ridiculous God-given name.

I feel like there have to be more, but I'm not coming up with anyone. Help?

It was truly strange to watch the Spurs-Mavs game and see four key contributors from the Wizards' most recent playoff team. (Yes, even though Stevenson and Haywood were on the bench a lot, they earned a lot of face time.) The Wizards essentially have one key contributor left: Andray Blatche. Nick Young's minutes that year were spotty, and Gilbert missed most of that season.

On April 21, 2009, Matt Bradley offered to punch you in the face. You declined. On December 10, 2009, Matt Bradley offered to shoot a slapshot in your face. You declined. Now, in the light of recent events, if Nicklas Backstrom offered to kiss you, would you accept? What if it was Matt Bradley?

Next question.

I don't think I ever officially declined Bradley's offer. I just never went out of my way to accept.

The Nats are over .500, not looking horrible (relatively speaking), and drawing zero fans. I'd love to see this get put back on the Lerners and their marketing to opponents, expensive prices and general lack of fan concern for the past few years, but I doubt that will happen.

Is there an over/under on how many weeks it will take for a "well-placed team source" to chastise the fans for demanding a competitive team, getting one, and still not supporting it?

I will also say that since it seems the Nats actually have a chance to win almost every game, I have found myself looking for MASN on my TV more often than last year. Those ratings have to be close to 0.3 territory by now as well. Any thoughts from you, Bog?

Well, now that you put it that way, I regret my earlier remarks. Maybe you're right. Jeez, I'm easier to browbeat than a draft-pick wielding Vinny Cerrato.

I don't think I'm breaking ground here, but the season ticket sales are gonna be the crucial factor for attendance, especially weekday school-time attendance. And it'll take a full year of quasi-competitiveness to boost season ticket sales, yes?

I've watched all the MASN games I'm able to, but it's obviously always going to rank behind the Caps in the playoffs. I can't say I've watched any more than in the past, and I can't say our Web numbers seem to be much higher for Nats stuff than they've been in the past.

Bog, do you have any clue what Jim Riggleman's workout program is? That dude is pretty' jacked for an older guy.

Agreed. Didn't some blog name him most likely to win a battle royale between all 30 skippers?

I'll leave it to Kilgore to pursue that angle, though.

What an addition! It took him a while to find his role on the team, but it always seems someone is trying to start something with him. He's not dirty, but he gets under the other teams skin. What does he do out there to irritate opponents so much?

Several Caps players told me he's the loudest guy on the team. Like, by far. Louder than Ovie.

They were talking about dressing room chirping, but I have a feeling this carries over to the ice. Tom Poti has the reputation for probably getting furthest under opponents' skin, or at least he did last year. I'm not sure if Chimera is challenging that.

Hey Dan, Any luck digging up that giant clipboard that hung outside WAPO headquarters during the '98 Stanley Cup run? I think a visual would be a hilarious reminder of premature celebration...

Uh, no. But your request has been noted and filed with other things I should do if I have time between transcribing Cerrato radio appearances.

Does anyone else remember this?

Steinz, Can you get someone to fix your link over to the right? There's an extra "h" in "http" and it's making my life very difficult.

Should be fixed now.

Don't you think it was kind of pointless for Habs fans to taunt Theodore considering he wasn't starting last night? Somehow I don't think it affected his play at all.

No, I think you taunt the targets you have, not the targets you wish you have. Why would Montreal fans taunt Varly? Dude has been lights-out against them. But Theodore left town in bad circumstances, has always struggled in his returns, and was pulled after two shots in Game 2. That's a fine target for taunting, especially with him sitting right there on the bench.

It would seem that home-ice noise is not much of a deterrent, anyhow. That place sounded just electric on television, and reporters indicated it was among the loudest buildings they'd ever visited, and yet the Caps won easily. Maybe they'd be better off not taunting anyone and turning the building into a morgue.

After this chat is over, would you mind heading over to Mr. Wise's desk and beating him over the head with his computer keyboard. Thanks!

I'm pretty sure Wise's desk is in Fairfax at 106.7 The Fan HQ. Why, what'd he do now?

Juwan Howard with the Blazers and Larry Hughes with the Bobcats.

Duh on both. But thank you.

I think those two guys have combined to play for something like 13 NBA franchises.

Many moons ago, I heard some talk that the Redskins might shy away from Sam Bradford because he's part Cherokee and that might invite even more talk about their nickname.

Has anyone asked Bradford what he thinks of the nickname? I might be making things up, but I have a vague memory of some group saying they would try to convince Bradford to refuse to play for the 'Skins until their changed the name.

Well, City Paper's Dave McKenna issued a personal guarantee that the Redskins wouldn't draft Bradford to avoid this issue being raised. That's the only "shy away" talk I heard.

He's been asked about the nickname, and has declined to comment. But he's embraced his heritage and has become a big hero to some youth groups, etc.

Still, I can't imagine either he or the Redskins would be swayed by this in any way whatsoever.

Based on your experience covering the Capitals, don't you think when the Natioanls start winning, the issue of out-of-towners will be a quaint story from the past? Also, not to really dwell on last week's issue, but I was at last night's Nationals game and was pleased to see the Capitals game was on, not just at the Red Loft, but several concourse televisions. They also updated the scoreboard from time to time, to a smattering of applause. I suspect several sports fans stayed away from Natstown last night to watch the Capitals.

Well, I think the issue of poor attendance will certainly be a quaint story from the past. Out of towners? They'll still be there. A baseball stadium is quite a bit bigger than a hockey barn, and with 81 home dates, I'd guess there are a lot more no-shows. I'd think it'll be years and years before Philly games, or Cubs games, or Mets games don't have really sizable visiting fan support.

I heard they were showing the Caps game, which is nice. And I'm sure some people stayed away because of the Caps.

Dan, What's a Vachon Cake? Is it like some sort of Canuck Little Debbie? Like how their word for "Dunkin' Donuts" is "Tim Horton's?"

Uh, that's my impression.

But Tim Horton's is actually two words.

Anyhow, Vachon's Web site was terrifyingly complex, and there seemed to be about 80 brands under the Vachon name. Or maybe Vachon was one of 80 brands under some other umbrella. I didn't understand it, and I don't remember. All's I know is that it's no fair Canada got the delicious chocolate Smarties, and we got the gross chalky ones.

The only anthem I'll boo is the Icelandic National Anthem. I'm thinking of applying for permanent Scottish citizenship. When I get home to Dulles, I think I'll kiss the ground.

Fun fact: Cam, the usual producer for this chat, is stuck in Paris right now, unable to return home. Hope you're having fun, Cam!

Having spent such quality time with the Icelandic handballers at the Beijng Olympics, I could never boo their anthem.

By the way, if circumstances conspired to trap me in, say, Scotland when I was supposed to be back in Washington working, here's a list of things I would not be doing with my bonus time:

1) Reading the D.C. Sports Bog live chat.

It's interesting hearing about a draft pick Vinny regrets. I have a Executive VP for Football Operations selection I wish the Skins could re-do.

I think Cerrato said some ridiculous things in his radio appearance yesterday, but I don't begrudge him saying he'd re-do the Carlos Rogers pick. He was asked which pick he'd re-do, and he answered. I mean, it's not very politically correct, but I don't think he and Carlos are golfing pals. I liked his answer better than "well, I don't want to live in the past" or something like that.

You have to love the Redskins fan base who can get frothing mad about the draft BEFORE it has even happened. Let's wait until the draft is over, how about it? The coverage by ESPN should be banned.

I can say with 100 percent certainty that Thursday's fourth overall pick is a massively bigger story in D.C. -- or at least, among our readers -- than a potential series-clinching Caps win on Friday.

I mean, as mentioned before, we had eight people at Skins minicamp on Sunday, and three people at Game 3 on Monday. On the face of it, you want to scream to the heavens that this is unjust, and un-newsworthy, and rather stupid. But it's what the people want. Give 'em what they want.

Mr. Bog: Where were the Colorado fans at the Nats game? Denver is a lot like the DC area, for sports interest it's 1) the Broncos; 2) the Broncos; 3) the Broncos; 4) the Broncos or, possibly, everything else. I think that holds true for Colorado emigrants here.

Didn't realize so many D.C. fans were so into the Broncos.

But I get your point.

Will they anxiously follow Shanahan's first season in D.C., I wonder? And hope he fails or succeeds?

I like the Canadian Anthem! I always picture Mounties on their horses with their cute hats (the mounties, not the horses) peering over the border being on guard for thee.

I'm not embarrassed to admit that I watched last night's rendition three times on YouTube this morning, and at the end when everybody went berserk (I think it's when Beliveau was shown on the big screen) I got goose bumps every time. Three for three. And I didn't once think of mounties, or moose, or thee.

What do you think of this rumor? That T.O. may come to the Skins, reuniting with McNabb? I think it's an awful idea. When we signed Donovan McNabb to go along with Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, I said "all we need now is T.O. and a time machine set to 2004 and we're Super Bowl bound."

Now it looks like all we may need to do is track down that time machine. Anyone have a Delorean we can use?

Like I said, maybe we should hold off for a few minutes before we jump off the Key Bridge.

But if I was telling you that you had to field a football team tomorrow morning for a game that would decide whether you can eat nothing but KFC Double Downs for the rest of your life, and I told you your third receiver could be either Malcolm Kelly or Terrell Owens, your pick, which guy would you take?

In my lifetime, will I ever see Teddy win a President's Race?

Yes. The chorus of "this gimmick has run its course" critics is mounting. They just need to come up with a suitably big-time occasion, imo.

I think you should grow playoff hair in regards to the Capitals playoff run. Sure you could be normal and do the playoff beard but people wanna see Steinberg with hair.

I have a fu manchu. Isn't that enough?

It'd be interesting to see if an entire team would one day decide to boycott the playoff beard thing, just to see how karma would respond. I mean, there are a lot of teams with playoff beards that get treated pretty poorly by karma, so I don't think you're taking a huge risk.

Why are so many DC media men bald? Any insight would be appreciated.

That's too straight questions about my hair. I guess stranded Scottish travelers really have nothing better to do with their lives.

In the continued spirit of giving the people what they want, here's a verbatim email I received last night, concerning my post about Mike Shanahan's new rules in Ashburn.

"There's a reason he's an NFL HEAD COACH and you're a bald headed wannabe sports writer. He knows what he's doing and talking about, and you don't. If there were fewer numb nuts like you and more poeple like him, it just might be a better country. Impressing upon people that we are responsible for our actions and accountable to others is a hard concept for people like you to follow."

After I read this, I immediately ran out into the street and jaywalked, just to prove a point.

We had to "lose" that DVD, Caillou is a whiny little brat. We got rid of Caillou and my kids' behavior improved quickly.

Really? I don't pay attention. Is he a bad kid? Does he eat his vegetables at least? We had a major breakthrough yesterday, with my daughter deciding that she likes cooked carrots. Then all through dinner she was saying "I like vegetables!" And when we asked her what her favorite snack was, she said "fruits and vegetables!" Which is a blatant lie, but whatever.

If Caillou eats his carrots, he could also be a four-year old serial arsonist and I'd let her watch.

Ovie and Backie just started a lifetime of taunts by Pittsburgh fans. Just sayin'.

It's true. If there were a clearer shot of their embrace, you can bet Puck Daddy would have already announced a photoshop contest.

It wasn't really ovie's doing, either. He was already going to his knees, so that seemed like a fine spot to celebrate. And then Backstrom just came up and cradled his head, maybe because it was hard to find anything else to cradle from that angle.

Dan, are you going to make a trip up 15 to check out the Senators this summer? The upside to having S'brg is that there are now a ton of people going to City Island and watching Harrisburg field a good team; the downside is, there are now a ton of people going to watch them play -- it's what I imagine people in Park City felt like before Redford rolled into town with a couple of movies.

But, it's great to have some excitement- usually the only time this happens is if Portland, Reading, or Trenton come to town, and we can see future Yankees.

I would have absolutely guessed yes a few weeks ago, but Sheinin is all over that beat like fail on Cerrato. Not sure how much I could add.

I think they missed their chance. They should have had him win on Opening Day and then ... he takes off his head and it's President Obama! And the other three were Secret Service agents!

That certainly would have qualified as a suitable occasion. First game, last game, first playoff game, first all-star game....I'm not sure what else qualiifes.

Not meaning to jinx the Caps, but if/when they and the Pens win their series do you foresee a roadtrip or two to Pittsburgh?

Ah, you're forgetting the re-seeding, yes? Boston and Philly are both up, and if either team wins two of the next four games in their series, we'd be talking Philly/Boston instead of Pittsburgh.

All three of those cities are fairly accessible, especially Philly. But I'm still not sure why I'd go. For the pre-game press box meal? For the between-period chatter with Brett Leonhardt? Merely to talk photos of fans wearing t shirts?

"I can say with 100 percent certainty that Thursday's fourth overall pick is a massively bigger story in D.C. -- or at least, among our readers -- than a potential series-clinching Caps win on Friday."

That's a bit ridiculous. The entire city is caught up in hockey madness. The guy who did my vehicle emissions inspection last weekend said, "the Redskins suck, the Wizards suck, the Nationals suck, what else am I supposed to do? They even got brothers like me watching hockey now!!"

This is typically WAPO's problem: underestimating the appeal of the Caps. Do it at your own peril.

Well, I changed "in D.C." to "among our readers" for a reason. Maybe "the entire city" is caught up in hockey madness, but our Redskins readership seems to encompass a larger geographic area than that. I mean, we're covering this hockey team, and we'll keep covering them and keep increasing that coverage the longer this lasts. I don't mean to diminish that in any way. I'm just saying, I see what our Web traffic looks like, and a big Redskins story is on a completely different level. The fourth pick counts as one of those.

Seriously, look at the TV ratings for the two teams. Sure, the Skins are a once-a-week proposition, and they're on network TV, but still. Take a look.

It seems to me like the Wiz have JV and Varsity versions. The JV team is the actual Wizards and the Varisty Wiz are where players go when they are done here. That said, who is your favorite Varsity Wiz team: the Spurs, Mavericks, or Pistons?

I'm rooting for the Mavericks. Haywood, Butler and Stevenson provided more blog posts than I can count. And while I'm hesitant ever to proclaim that any athlete is a good guy based on our extremely limited and artificial dealings with them, Caron was one of the all-time best to deal with.

What cheese pairs well with a blend of multiple issues coming to a head, anger, and helplessness?

Maybe that orange stuff that McDonald's puts on the Big Mac?

What United fans are going through right now can really only be understood by Redskins fans. From being considered the absolute class of the entire league to absurd struggles and putrid results in less than a decade. The only difference is United is simultaneously dealing with a crumbling stadium and an uncertani future. It's yucky, and it makes me sad.

No question other than whether you can explain to this non-hockey person what "crosschecking" is? Watching some of the game last night it seemed to be when a player crashed into an opposing player against the wall... with malice. Without malice, seems to be part of the game. Am I close?

Literal answer: "The action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent."

Obviously, this happens frequently and is not called. I'm not sure if "malice" is exactly the tipping point, but it's not a bad effort.

I think you might be referring more to boarding, though I don't recall any boarding calls last night. Boarding is defined as " any player or goalkeeper who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards," and that one actually acknowledges the subjectivity in the rulebook.

When I saw clips of Youppi outside the arena before the game, I knew the Caps were home free. The Curse of Youppi will not be denied.

So why do the Nats lose? The Curse of Screech?

You used to like D.C. United. What happened?

1) Steve Goff got a blog and completely monopolized the online attentions of our soccer-loving readers.

2) Alecko Eskandarian departed.

3) I realized that I was allowed to write about the Redskins, and that radio transcriptions made for find blog posts.

4) DCU sort of stopped winning.

I am so sick of all the new chants that have become traditions at Caps game. The "refs you suck" is used ANYTIME there is a marginal call that we may or may not have gotten. It ends up being meaningless in a "boy who cried wolf" way.

The count of goals with the "it's all your fault" is usually not true and again loses it's effectiveness as it is done regardless of the situation. And the worst is the "who's that" in response to the announcement of the goal scorer for the other team. Sometimes I will respond "that is a first ballot hall of famer who plays for the other team" or "the guy who just put his team ahead of ours, that is who that is."

I guess there is comfort in ritual for so many fans, I just think you watch and react to what is actually going on instead of doing the same thing the same way each time.

Refs you suck = fail. Any chant involving "suck" is automatically suspect, and this one is usesd far too indiscrimantly.

"It's all your fault" I'm ok with. It may not be original, but it's not standard around the NHL, and at least it's not offensive. I don't think it should be judged on it's literal veracity; I think even the chanters would willingly admit, over a beer or three, that every goal in NHL history was not necessarily the fault of the netminder.

"Who's that" I could certainly live without.

I think you want your cheering repetoire to be a bubbling blend of the ritual and the spontaneous. And nothing at a Caps game can even approach the astounding awfulness of Rock and Roll Part II at Redskins and Terps games.

They keep putting numbers in the W category not the L.

I am not used to that.

Let's enjoy it. It's kind of a nice change. I've gotten miles and miles of mileage (miles!) out of making fun, and I'm probably an evil person with a heart of hummus, but in the long run it's better for all of us if they win. Especially in July, when we have nothing bloody else to write about.

So root root root for the home team, and there's something particularly special about a relationship between a town and its ball team, and despite occasional missteps things are basically on the right track here, and Adam Dunn is a great guy and the Lerners mean well and Strasburg could be a star or not.

Tune in Thursday for the above paragraph, backed up by 7,000 statistics, mini-essays  and occasional misspellings! Now I have to go listen to some Redskins radio interviews.

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Dan Steinberg
Washington Post staff writer and D.C. Sports Bogger.

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E-mail: sportsbog@washpost.com.
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